Annual report reviews state of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries, territories.
The US took aim at several countries, including China, Russia, Myanmar and India in its annual religious freedom report Thursday, which reviews the state of religious freedom in nearly 200 nations and territories.
Speaking at a press conference with Rashad Hussain, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said governments are failing to respect their citizens’ basic rights and some others continue to use blasphemy and apostasy laws.
“We know that when the fundamental right of each person to practice their faith, or to choose not to observe a faith is respected, people can make their fullest contributions to community successes,” said Blinken.
He said the report documents how religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities are under threat in communities around the world.
“For example, in India, the world’s largest democracy, and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people in places of worship,” said the top diplomat.
Blinken also urged Europe to do more to combat rising hate, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment.
The report pointed to genocide committed in Myanmar against Muslims and stressed the abuse of Muslims and other ethnic groups by the Chinese government.
Blinken said the Chinese government “continues its genocide and repression of predominantly Muslim leaders and other religious minority groups,” and “continues to harass adherence of other religions.”
On Russia, the top diplomat noted the US’ designation of it as a country of particular concern last year and said Moscow has doubled down on its violations of religious freedom rather than reverse course.
“Russian courts regularly reach new milestones for excessive prison sentences against individuals exercising their religious freedom,” he said.
Turning to Afghanistan, Blinken said “conditions for religious freedom have deteriorated dramatically” under the Taliban, and cited the plight of women and girls whose rights he said were diminished by the Taliban.
In Vietnam, Blinken said authorities harass members of unregistered religious communities.
The report also includes several countries that have shown progress, said Blinken.
“For example, last year, the Kingdom of Morocco launched an initiative to renovate Jewish heritage sites like synagogues and cemeteries and to include Jewish history in the Moroccan public school curriculum,” said Blinken.
“And Taiwan authorities are making it easier for employers who refuse to give their workers a weekly rest day in order to attend services,” he added.
For Saudi Arabia, he said the US recognizes “the important recent moves to increase interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance.”
Hussain said the report gives voice to countless individuals around the world who have been killed, beaten, threatened, harassed or jailed for seeking to exercise their beliefs or with the dictates of their conscience.
The ambassador said too many governments remain undeterred in repressing their citizens.
“It comes as no surprise that the People’s Republic of China is a glaring example here,” said Hussain.
“Anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and xenophobia are on the rise in many countries,” he said. “Democratic backsliding, and the rise of nationalism and nativist rhetoric and policies have been used to justify violence towards members of ethnic or religious minority groups and historically marginalized peoples.”
“Social media platforms are used to spread hate speech and to incite violence by vilifying and threatening members of religious minorities,” he added.